Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Reading List

This summer we're going on a six week road trip to New York (a week at Chautauqua with Julie's family to celebrate her folks' 50th wedding anniversary!), Wisconsin (Bob and Bobbie at the lake!), Iowa (Mark, Jennie and Gillie on a farm with a pond!), Indiana (beer and books with Gordon! and Neville!), Ohio (Erik and Claire and two scrumptious nephews, Asher and Noam!), Vermont (paradise with Dad and Anne!) and New Hampshire (paradise revisited with Suzanne et al, in which Meg and Micah go to camp for a week!).

Yes, we're counting the days.

I'm also compiling a summer reading list, and am open to suggestions. The general themes this summer are 1) short stories 2) Virginia Woolf 3) James Joyce 4) books on the craft of fiction writing.

Here's my list so far, a somewhat random collection of books I already own (it's a budget summer reading list, but if you have suggestions that are classics, I can download them to Trixie's Kindle... and when we're at Prairie Lights, I'll probably have to spend a little money, right? Because it's important to support independent bookstores and writers, right?).

Short Stories

[edited to add:] The Mother Garden by Robin Romm
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Welding with Children by Tim Gautreaux
The Best American Short Stories of 2009 edited by Alice Sebold
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Great Short Stories of the Masters edited by Charles Neider
The Paris Review Spring 2010
Tin House Volume 11, Number 3
The Iowa Review Volume 40, Number 1
Canteen Issue Five
New England Review Volume 30, Number 4
Antioch Review Spring 2010
New Yorker -- the past several months

Joyce and Woolf

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (I'm half way through)
Homer's The Odyssey (any suggestions of a good translation for me and Trixie to read together?)
To The Lighthouse or Orlando (what do you think if I only have time for one this summer?)
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Fiction Craft

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You May Be Wondering Why I've Called You Here Today...

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging much.  No?

Well, anyway, I haven't been blogging much.

When I started this blog, I was mostly looking for a place to publish my essay You Can Always Fry Eggs in Missoula, Montana, about my dad, as well as the book reviews I write for Gordon.  It was around when I realized that not only do I really like writing, but I kind of need to write to stay sane.  And I thought, I have a pretty interesting life, and some quirky ideas a few other folks might like, so maybe I'll write an essay or two a month, no big deal, and throw them up on a blog.  I didn't give much thought to craft, and no thought whatever to getting published; stuff just sort of poured out of me, and I hit "publish."

A year after starting this blog with such modest ambitions, I took a fateful trip to New York to sit on Patrick's couch in Harlem and I wrote for four days non-stop.  Okay, not totally non-stop, but I wrote a lot, and when I wasn't writing I was hanging out with other writers.  Since then I've been back several times, I've made friends with more writers, I've joined a writing workshop called Rittenhouse Writers Group, and I've gotten this idea in my head that I might be a writer of short fiction (though I haven't given up on the essay; I like the essay a lot, I will admit).  And while I still have fairly modest ambitions, I'm less inclined these days to write a draft and hit "publish."  Indeed, I'm relearning that the real work of writing is revising.  (I say "work," but really?  I'm a pig in mud.)

So I'm not publishing much on the blog these days, and what I am writing now I probably won't publish here, at least not until it has been soundly rejected by any number of other venues.  But I'm not ready to close up shop.  There are still my book reviews, with many, I hope, to come this summer.  And I want to finish the Midwestern Marriage piece, even though I don't have time now to give it much revision.  That will be going up in parts over the coming months -- and then?

We'll see!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Patrick Lacey and I are pretty sure we are twins separated at birth.  I can't tell you how dear this man is to me.  So even though I didn't know his beloved brother James, my heart still aches with Patrick and his family as they continue to mourn James' sudden death in a car accident a year ago.

It's an awful thing to have so many friends lately suffering the awful, untimely deaths of young men in their families, but it is an honor to stand with them in their grief, and to offer what small comfort I can as it unfolds.  As Patrick notes in his current post at his blog Loose Ends, he and I have a mutual friend, Ellen, whose brother Mark also recently died.  When I was last in New York, writing on Patrick's couch in Harlem, Ellen asked all of her friends to celebrate her brother's birthday by eating an Entenmann's double chocolate donut.  Patrick and his boyfriend Bill and I were only too happy to oblige, and on the theory that where one Entenmann's is good, a dozen is better, we clogged our arteries good and hard that weekend!

The Laceys are now coming up on the first anniversary of James' death, just days after what would have been his 42nd birthday today.  Patrick has compiled a joyful, playful list of ways we might honor and remember James -- everything from eating salad to walking a dog to running an errand for a shut-in.  And my favorite, kissing friends (you never have to ask me twice, right?!)  I didn't know James personally, though I know the rest of the Laceys and feel as though I knew James from the exquisite posts Patrick shared on his blog in the months after James' death.  And what I know is that James was one of those souls that lives on a different plane than the rest of us, that he had some things figured out that the rest of us can only hope to understand if we're blessed with a long life.  I'm going to be trying to live a little more like James Lacey in the next few days, with Patrick's delightful suggestions as my guide -- as a way to honor James, of course, and to remember him, but mostly because trying to live more like James is probably as sure a path to a good life as any of us is likely to find.

Even if you don't know Patrick or James from Adam, I encourage you to read this lovely post, eat some salad, kiss a friend -- and hold the Laceys in the light in the days to come.